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When to start feeding puppies wet food: A vet's guide to weaning

when to start feeding puppies wet food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There’s a lot to learn when you have a new puppy in the house, and you may be wondering when you can start feeding your puppy wet food. Depending on your puppy’s age, you may need to wait a little while before you can introduce wet food into his or her diet.  

Although wet food is a healthy diet for older puppies, very young puppies need more calories in their diets than wet food alone can provide. If your puppy is not yet weaned, read on to learn more about this process and what you can do to get your puppy started eating solid foods. 

How to wean a puppy 

Weaning puppies begins around 3 weeks of age. Weaning should always be a gradual process and puppies should never be abruptly taken away from the mother. Instead puppies should be offered a semi-solid food.  

Feeding wet food to puppies at this stage is not recommended, because wet food does not contain enough calories to support a young puppy’s rapid rate of growth. Wet food is also very rich and may cause stomach upset in young puppies during weaning.  

Create a mush 

During the weaning stage, puppies should be fed mush. This can be made by mixing an appropriate dry puppy food with water and allowing it to sit overnight in the refrigerator, forming a soft mush. This mush can then be heated in a microwave (mix thoroughly and check carefully for hot spots!) and offered to the puppies.

Most puppies will start eating the mush right away, but some may need a day or two to get used to the idea. It’s also important to let the puppies see mom eating solid food during this time, because puppies will often mimic their mother’s behavior.

Provide fresh water

Be sure to also provide a shallow tray of fresh water for the puppies to drink from – and possibly play in! Once the puppies are eating the mush well, you can gradually decrease the water content to make the mush more solid. During this time, the mother should be naturally weaning the puppies by decreasing their access to her milk supply. This, combined with their newfound interest in solid foods, will naturally wean the puppies off of milk and onto puppy food.

best puppy food

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When to start feeding puppies wet food 

When the puppies are eating solid dry food consistently and are no longer nursing from their mother, wet food can be introduced into their diet. For most puppies, wet food can safely be introduced at around 6-8 weeks of age.  Wet food may be too rich for some puppies, so introduce only small amounts at first and ensure there is no gastrointestinal upset – such as vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, or bloating – before you increase the amount of wet food you are offering to the puppies.  

Because wet food has a high moisture content, you may notice that the puppies drink slightly less water than they did when they were eating a solely dry food diet.  This is normal and is not cause for alarm as long as the puppies remain well-hydrated.

Is wet or dry food better for puppies? 

For neonatal puppies, dry food soften with water is better than wet food.  This is because wet food has a very high moisture content and a lower calorie content, so the puppies feel full before they’re able to consume enough calories to meet their bodies’ needs. 

Because dry food has a higher calorie content than wet food, it is a better choice for puppies during the weaning process.  Once the puppies have been weaned and are eating solid food consistently, the choice to feed wet food or dry food is just a matter of preference.  As long as the diet you choose is complete and balanced and age-appropriate for your puppy, there’s no significant difference in health benefits between wet food and dry food.

how much should i feed my puppy

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Choosing a wet food for your puppy 

If you do decide to feed your puppy wet food, it is important to make sure you choose a product that is healthy and balanced to support your puppy’s growth and development. Check the back of the can for the AAFCO Statement (US) or the Statutory Statement (UK) which should say something like “formulated for growth” or “for growing puppies”.   If your puppy is a large or giant breed, choose a wet food specifically formulated for large breed puppies.  The statement on the back of the can should say “for the growth of large breed puppies” or similar.

You’ll also want to ensure that the wet food you choose is from a reputable company, which you can do by utilizing the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s guidelines on selecting pet food or by asking your veterinarian for a product recommendation. 

For more information on how to select a pet food, you can learn how to read a pet food label or check out the recommendations from board certified veterinary nutritionists

How much to feed your puppy 

Pet parents always ask “How much should I feed my puppy?”  This is a difficult question to answer, because the right amount to feed your puppy depends on many individual factors such as your puppy’s age, breed, current weight, and body condition, as well as the calorie content of the food you are currently feeding and the number of meals per day your puppy gets. 

As you can see, with so many factors involved there’s no answer that works for all puppies!  Instead, your veterinarian is your best resource to help you determine how much to feed your puppy to ensure he or she is getting the right amount of calories to support healthy growth and development.  

Wet food is a healthy option for your puppy 

As long as your puppy is fully weaned and eating solid food, it’s okay to introduce some wet food into his or her diet.  Just start out with small amounts and watch out for any digestive upset, which can occur with diet changes.  If your puppy enjoys wet food and tolerates it well, it’s okay to make this type of food part or all of his or her meal – wet food is just as healthy for dogs and dry food!

Elizabeth Racine, DVM

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/